Buyer Centricity / Digital Transformation

Traveling the Road Alone

This Fall, my Significant Other (SO) and I are taking my father (an avid outdoorsman) on a bucket-list type adventure to Alaska with National Geographic. My SO and I regularly take trips into Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and other places far off the beaten track with no guide whatsoever. However, with my dad, we had to consider whether we should continue our self-service planning, independent trip style or go with a guide and other travelers. This is the same sort of situationally bifurcated customer behavior that your marketing transformation is going to have to prepare for. Unfortunately, too many marketers assume they can just create successful self-service journeys by scaling down traditional journeys.

Defining Customer Experience in E-Commerce

When building campaigns, self-service often translates to e-commerce while other customer journeys involve interacting with sellers. The customer experience in self-service situations, whether its purchasing or support, requires an incredibly high level of ease of use. This means not only is the process frictionless technically with no glitches comparing options or accepting payments online, it must also meet all the buyer’s information needs and be what I think of as ‘mentally frictionless.’

One company who does both technically and mentally frictionless self-service marketing is As a voracious reader, I buy from there quite a lot. I would buy less – and even read less – if they did not provide me with trustworthy information on the books via customer reviews, easy to find links and pricing for different formats, tax and shipping options when I’m ready to look at those, and a host of other useful pieces of information. As this case study points out, Amazon is obsessed with customer experience as a differentiator and it shows.

Specifically, if you make it hard for me to book my vacation with you, I will not be booking your hotel, jeep rental, whitewater rafting guide service, helicopter tour, or whatever else I wanted to do. There are just too many other places that make it easier for me to do so or who fill me with more confidence. Having once marketed commodity Linux servers via e-commerce, I’m painfully aware of the challenges of making it easy for customers to buy without any active help. However, it can be done. More importantly, it should be done.

Think about it from the customer’s perspective: if you make me work this hard to find out what your cancellation policy is or whether the helicopter has a full 360-degree view overhead and under my feet – when you’re highly motivated to act in a way to get my money – how can I trust that the quality of what you provide is going to that good, after you have my money?

Train marketers to walk through the process with a critical eye and provide everything they might need or want or you risk losing the sale. Beyond that, apply as much effort in persuading the e-commerce buyer to purchase with you as you do in traditional—typically higher budgeted, higher profile – campaigns.

Manage the Moments

Customer journey mapping is fantastic for identifying key moments in the buying cycle where you could either lose the customer or have them become devoted fans. There may one key moment in each stage of the buying cycle. There may be stages where is no key moment. There may even be a stage with more than one key moment. Map out the journey with all the relevant parties we talked about before, in the journey mapping process.

Identifying key moments is such an important issue that even large organizations like Google are digging into the data to see if they can find trends. Dig into the data. Build robustly researched personas and then test or interview or otherwise check to see if the moments that you think matter the most to your target buyer in the e-commerce journey are actually the ones that the buyer says or behaviorally show matter the most.

Many of the traditional rules about what products are suitable for e-commerce – lower value product/service, lower level of consideration required, etc. – have become less rigid as more and more people feel comfortable spending significant sums of money online and purchasing without physically seeing/touching products. However, that changes the type of moments you have to consider. Do you need to reassure your particular buyer about easy returns if what is delivered is not what they expected? Do you need to address online payment security? Don’t assume anything. Find out what matters and then address it.

Comments are welcome, especially if you have examples of how your organization addressed e-commerce journeys

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